Love Phò N’ Mor
341 Arneil Road
With it’s bright lime green walls, modern white hanging lamps, comfortable booths, spotless tables and chairs, the brightly lit, bustling and popular Love Pho N’ Mor Vietnamese restaurant, tucked into the corner of a Camarillo mall that boasts a 99 Cents Only Store, is a winner. Two wide-screen televisions and two large wooden, laughing Buddha statues — one that greets at the entrance, another in the dining room for good measure — add to the bright and happy space decorated with large black and white photographs of Vietnam rice paddies on the walls.
Occasionally, I stop off here on my way home from L.A. to meet friends or after concerts with musician friends. Recently, I was bringing my mom north, out of the traffic and summer smog of L.A., and we decided to meet my favorite Camarillo-based friends, John and Mara, for a Friday afternoon Vietnamese lunch feast. Three of us were celebrating our June birthdays, which was another good excuse to meet up.
The portions are huge and the food is delicious. The menu is gigantic and the prices are incredibly affordable. The staff is helpful in navigating the over 100 items — 161 if you include the beverages list, not counting beer — that are ordered by number, in the many-paged menu. And the fresh food comes quickly.
Four of us filled our tummies to the brim: Our bill was $50, including one appetizer, four entrees, a mango boba smoothie and iced tea.
Yes, there’s phò — and plenty of it. But I’m more about the “mor.”
What did we have?
Two of us shared an order of “winter rolls,” rice paper wrapped around fried tofu, rice vermicelli and lettuce served with a peanut dipping sauce. There are spring, summer, winter and autumn rolls, with shrimp or beef or shrimp paste or pork sausage. Who knew?
For our entrees, my mom ordered grilled pork, beef and chicken atop “small” vermicelli noodles in a huge bowl. To distinguish the variety of noodles served, simply refer to page 2 of your menu, where a photo guide-chart is there to help navigate the eight types of noodles. There’s also a primer on Vietnam — and all the dishes are listed in English and in Vietnamese, adding to the authenticity of this restaurant.
Mara, who avoids sugar, ordered pho tai chin — a man-sized bowl slightly tweaked to her asking that was brimming with tender slices of lean beef filet, lots of broccoli, onions and bok choy with a side of fresh leafy condiments — like Thai basil, bean sprouts and mint. The broth had a slightly sweet cinnamon flavor.
John, a man with a hearty appetite, went for bún thịt nướng (rice noodles known as bun with grilled pork and vegetables), which went down pretty fast and to great satisfaction, as did his mango smoothie, ordered “because I grew up in Brazil” he told my mom.
In the past, I have ordered one of the dishes where the noodles are pan-fried and crunchy; this time I chose another winner. My plate bun dac biet was filled to the brim with big fresh crunchy leafy slices of lettuce greens to wrap the tasty thin slices of barbecued pork topped with scallions, tiny fried onions and peanuts, sitting atop “angel” vermicelli, an even finer noodle than what my mom had. Cucumber slices and shredded carrots were also there to fill the lettuce wraps I rolled — topped with sweet hoisin sauce.
If you are not familiar with Vietnamese food, you should be. It’s tasty but not spicy and there are condiments: soy sauce, hoisin sauce, fish sauce and hot sauce to add flavor. There are broken rice dishes, Thai iced tea, a children’s menu, weird-sounding Jell-0 desserts and even tripe. Essentially, there is something for everyone. And then some.
The staff here is very accommodating — especially if you have special requests, as Mara did for no sugar and more vegetables.
If I had one criticism it would be the noise factor, but this can be taken into consideration by going at an off time (they are open 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.) if that bothers you. But everyone is so happy, having so much fun, and so relieved not to have to rob a bank to pay the bill, it’s really not that much of an issue.
Fresh, bountiful, delicious and inexpensive (many entrees are under $10) — what more could you ask for?
I promise that you will leave, as we did, rubbing your full belly and smiling like a content Buddha.